Q&A: Laura Jones, co-race director, Knoxville Urban Wilderness Challenge

How did this "urban wilderness challenge" idea come about?

Last March, between Carol Evans at Legacy Parks Foundation, which is the beneficiary, and here at River Sports, where I'm manager, we figured this out as a way to let everybody know about the new corridors that Legacy Park purchased for outdoor recreation. It lets people be in areas minutes from downtown right off the greenway that they didn't know even existed, like the paddle portion we did at Fort Dickerson off Chapman Highway. The race was such a huge success in 2010 we ended up having to close registration down, but this year we're trying not to turn anyone away.

What was the most challenging aspect last year?

The biking, because they just weren't accustomed to that much—15 to 18 miles.

That's a lot.

Not really. On the greenway, you've probably ridden six miles without thinking about it. We don't want people to be intimidated by the miles or modes; we want them to have fun and see what's out there—and be aware of the economic potential. Areas like Ogden, Utah, and Boulder, Colo., are basing their whole economic growth on outdoor activities. Both towns built centers and brought in economic activities with outdoor recreation. We have so much potential.

The courses are secret until the day. Can you tell us anything?

Between Brian Hann of the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club and I, we're designing the race through completely different areas this year, not reusing any. Ijams Nature Center is where it's being held, and part of that is to bring awareness of the trails. I've ridden a lot of trails across the U.S. and let me tell you, these trails are fabulous.

Is the citizen's race for those who aren't die hard?

Um, yes, it's easier, not only because of time but it's not quite as technical, particularly in the mountain bike and rope work sections. But it still has some fun adventure that will blow their socks off.

It's not gross or painful like The Amazing Race?

No, they're not going to eat any worms.

And Knoxville could do the same?

Just with what we've already done, our name should be listed. And there is so much more potential, but we have to have support, which is why we do this race.

Do teams win anything?

It's a win just to finish, but we also have prizes for the top three teams in co-ed, female, and male categories in both the citizen's race and the adventure challenge.

The challenge is April 16 at 8:30 a.m. People can register at River Sports up until Friday April 15, or online at active.com